Toronto's real capital

(one of several interpretations of Green political theory listed for reference at Green Politics - this is a refer link as it refers to an offsite article without invoking it as authority)

__Toronto's real capital: from the natural to the individual_ by Craig Hubley visible here

is a short article on the modelling of capital that is assumed and implied by municipal organization in Canada's largest city. It describes a very specific model of the obligation economy suitable for integration with existing audit best practices. It was originally written to support the Province of Toronto initiative and in this form was made available to Mayor David Miller in the early phase of his 2003 campaign.

"We are used to thinking of Toronto as the "capital of Ontario". This is a dangerously limited point of view, but it reflects the fact that much of the intangible capital of Canada is in Toronto: its social trust structures, its major instructional institutions, and its most talented and globally noteworthy individuals - its "individual capital".
... Citizens of other regional capitals that have permitted powers to devolve to far suburbs, to people who see the downtowns merely as shopping places or cruising zones or traffic james, have suffered incredibly for this neglect. Detroit, for instance, lost its political power to its suburbs in the 1960s and became a near-burnt-out wasteland by the 1970s. Decades of hard civic work have failed to restore the city to its prior status as the most important city of industry on the Great Lakes. Toronto could just as easily see its status as the centre of Great Lakes culture go, too. A city's comparative advantage is fragile.

To avoid this fate, Toronto citizens (and by that we mean only those in the 416 area code, those committed to the city as a way of life, not the 905 or "Greater Toronto" which is a myth at best, a conspiracy at times) must begin to think of their city as a capital in the deep sense:

natural capital in the form of watersheds, rivers, ravines, wildlife, air and access to clean water, soil, parks, sunshine for gardens, and a proliferation of plants that sustain humans in all ways.

infrastructural capital in the form of sewers, roads, subways, electric power lines, streetcar tracks, overhead rail, water lines, universities, colleges, schools, park facilities, and libraries. It includes the physical facilities of churches and non-profit organizations that are committed to Toronto, and work to solve its problems, e.g. housing homeless, connecting the city to its world class airport, etc.

instructional capital in the form of laws, codes, methods, processes, charters, professional practices and rules, ethical codes and examples, trades, training programs and the contents of libraries - plus all the informal knowledge of language, culture, family and political and ethical minorities that is preserved in writing, in media, and in oral tradition - each of our neighbourhoods is a wealth of instruction

social capital in the form of actual groups of people trusting each other to carry out Toronto's important work - the charities, the churches, the nonprofit organizations, the for-profit corporations, the political parties, and most important of all - the families - it's the impact on these that must be at the heart of every single policy

individual capital in the form of each of us, what we have trained ourselves to do, what we can uniquely do and create - the arts, the scientific researchers, the critics, and also the political leaders - those with courage and initiative, anyway


Compared to the massed weight of the above, the city's real capital, when committed to one purpose at one point in time, mere financial capital does not count for much - it cannot outweigh the gross power of the above. Finance merely measures:

But from whose perspective does it measure? Finance is a mere reflection of nature, infrastructure, instruction, society and individuals, a mere means by which a certain group quantifies their relation to each other. That group can be a genuinely committed and trusted group from the 416 itself - or, it can be an unaccountable group of bankers and politicians. Some of these are not local but often live in the 905, committed only to a wrong economic view that favours exploiting Toronto's patience and tolerance as 'resources'... something to be extracted and abused until it is finally - exhausted. Then, in this view, they move on, and ravage another place, the new "boom town".


Urban philosopher Jane Jacobs advocates urban secession for all "cities that wish to thrive in the 21st century". She was an early advocate of a Province of Toronto...

Autonomy starts with ethics - being trusted to self-govern. Ethics starts with honesty - saying one thing about one set of events, and committing to it. Honesty starts with the numbers, the counting, the accounting - the root of accountability. Say it this way: you need "a count ability" before you can be trusted to count:

Accounting, and accountability, start with knowing where and what the capital is. And which of it is likely to walk away, if it is not treated properly, for instance, having its homes smogged out, or, watching its friends freeze to death on the street. Toronto has a problem. But it also has an opportunity. It can be stated no more neatly than on the City of Toronto Audit Services page:

"A critical component of local government assessment is performance auditing. First developed in the late 1960s and shepherded by the United States General Accounting Office (GAO) . the chief audit arm of the federal government . performance auditing has spread to most state governments and nearly all of the best managed local governments.

Government auditing standards, promulgated by the GAO, define performance auditing as "an objective and systematic examination of evidence for the purpose of providing an independent assessment of the performance of a government organization, program, activity, or function." A performance audit can help a local government determine not only the cost of an activity, but also its effectiveness.

Unfortunately, many local governments have no audit function of any kind. The only audit work they have done is the annual review of their financial statements by a public accounting firm. That process only confirms whether the financial statements have been prepared in accordance with generally accepted government accounting standards; it does not address the central questions of effectiveness, efficiency and equity.

Competent government managers recognize that the best organizations do not deny the existence of problems. They also know that it is critical to try to form partnerships with citizens to create solutions to problems. The local government audit function can be a critical component in the ongoing process of identifying problems and opportunities and enabling officials to engage the community in a discussion about how to deal with them."

Ask the hard central questions: about "effectiveness, efficiency and equity". What if:

Effectiveness is measured quite differently for each of the styles of capital? One does not measure the air cleaning capacity of trees in a ravine, the same way one measures the amount of ingenuity, entrepreneurship, and artistic skills retained by respecting creativity. And neither can be measured the same way one measures roads, sewers or power grids.

Efficiency measures that don't respect that, can do nothing but damage to life?

Equity is about keeping the value of life as high in one department or process or ethnic group as it is for the City as a whole? Especially when looking at ending health inequalities,equity can only be the outcome of an open and transparent process of assigning value to things that support life, and even life itself: Yes, a city must make choices to lose some lives to one thing (like an extra minute of ambulance response time) to save many others elsewhere (like more nutritional education for our children).
Make no mistake: bad accounting kills. So doing it right, can save us much more than money. We have not just a right, but a duty, to do it correctly.
To "engage the community in a discussion of how to deal with" the above, we must start with a simple and comprehensible model of what our real capital assets are. Teach it to the people, and let them teach it each day to the politicians.

References"/sources (selected):

City of Toronto Audit Services

Richard Florida, creator of the Bohemian Index, Gay Index, and other "creative class" analysis

Jane Jacobs

Physical Capital (factsheet, Energy Institute, UK)

"Methods in Social Capital", Oliver Harding, Leroy White, London Health Observatory

capital asset

"The Natural Step"

"Natural Capitalism", natcap.org, Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, Hunter Lovins

ISO 19011 accounting standard

triple bottom line

Toronto's real capital: from the natural to the individual